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Legislator Raising Cash for Possible House Bid in Wisconsin

State Rep. Steve Wieckert (R) has formed an exploratory committee for the 8th district seat Rep. Mark Green (R) is expected to vacate to run for governor next year.

The eight-year Assembly veteran becomes the second state legislator to take formal steps toward running. State Rep. Terri McCormick (R) is already raising money.

One the GOP side, Assembly Speaker John Gard, state Rep. Frank Lasee and former Green Bay Mayor Paul Jadin are also said to be eyeing the race.

On the Democratic side, Green Bay businessman Jamie Wall announced his candidacy earlier this month.

Rick Wiley, executive director of the state Republican Party, says he is not concerned that so many Republicans are testing the waters.

“You don’t really have to pull the trigger until June 1, 2006,” he said, noting a lot can change by then. “Do I anticipate a five-way primary? No. I think it will probably be smaller than that. I think there’s going to be a Democratic primary too.”
— Nicole Duran

Two Senate Candidates Will Abide by Party Vote

The two leading Democratic contenders for the open Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton (D) promised to drop out of the race next year if they do not win the state party endorsement.

In formally launching her campaign Sunday, Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said she would abandon the race if she is not backed by her party, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Monday. Child safety advocate Patty Wetterling (D), who has not officially joined the race yet, made the same pledge. They could, theoretically, opt to compete in a Democratic primary after the state party has weighed in.

Both women posted impressive fundraising numbers in the first quarter, which ended March 31.

At least two other Democrats, attorney Mike Ciresi and Ford Bell, a veterinarian, are still mulling bids.

While Rep. Mark Kennedy remains the only declared Republican candidate, former Sen. Rod Grams has said he will seek the GOP nomination.

Independent Jack Uldrich said last week that he would run as well. He served in the administration of then-Gov. Jesse Ventura (I) and formerly led the Minnesota Independence Party.
— N.D.

First Democrat Enters Race for Kennedy Seat

In the race to replace Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) in the 6th district, the state’s former transportation commissioner, Elwyn Tinklenberg, became the first Democrat to say he would run.

St. Cloud Mayor John Ellenbecker (D) is also considering a run while Ted Thompson (D), a former Congressional aide who aborted his campaign for the seat last year, told The Associated Press he was leaning against another bid.

Five Republicans have already entered the fray. They are: state Sen. Michele Bachmann, state Reps. Phil Krinkie and Jim Knoblach, former state Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke and businessman Jay Esmay.
— N.D.

Poll Confirms DeWine Lead in GOP Special

Two more Republicans jumped into the crowded 2nd district special election race, as the results of a second poll confirmed Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine’s (R) status as the early frontrunner in the contest.

State Rep. Tom Brinkman and former Rep. Bob McEwen declared their candidacies for Rep. Rob Portman’s (R) seat late last week, expanding the Republican field to six.

Portman is awaiting Senate confirmation to be the next U.S. trade representative. A special election to fill the House vacancy will likely be held in late summer or early fall.

An American Viewpoint benchmark survey obtained Monday by Roll Call showed DeWine well ahead of other possible and likely Republican challengers with 29 percent.

The survey was conducted in late March and had a 5.8 percent margin of error.

The poll also showed that DeWine is far and above the best known of all the potential candidates. He was known to 96 percent of the respondents and had a 69 percent to 19 percent favorable/unfavorable rating. A recent Tarrance Group poll conducted for DeWine’s campaign showed similar results.

Behind DeWine in the poll were local talk show host Bill Cunningham with 10 percent, former state Rep. Jean Schmidt with 8 percent, attorney Bill Keating Jr. with 7 percent, and McEwen and Brinkman tied at 6 percent. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann and Hamilton County treasurer Rob Goering both registered less than 5 percent.

In addition to Brinkman, McEwen and DeWine, Schmidt is the only other Republican tested in the poll who has formally entered the race. Symmes Township Trustee Eric Minamyer and financial analyst David Smith are also seeking the GOP nod.

Russell Hurley, a local barber and political novice, became the first Democrat to formally toss his hat into the race over the weekend. However, the seat heavily favors Republicans, and Democrats are not expected to vigorously contest the race.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Will Voters Be Comfy With Sandals for Senate?

Even after state and national Democrats worked to clear the field for their desired Senate nominee, it appears that state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) won’t get an opposition-free primary after all.

Attorney Alan Sandals (D) will announce today that he is forming an exploratory committee as he mulls a Senate bid.

Sandals, 51, is a native of Connecticut but has degrees from Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He has practiced law in Philadelphia since 1982.

Still, it’s not likely Sandals will be much of a match for Casey, who was elected Treasurer last year with the most votes ever received by a statewide candidate in the Keystone State.

Provided Casey wins the Democratic primary, he will face Sen. Rick Santorum (R) next year in what is already being billed as the top race of this cycle.
— L.W.W.

Senate Poll Suggests GOPer Is Competitive

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) runs competitively with all three leading Democratic candidates in hypothetical Senate match-ups, a new independent poll has found.

Steele, who has not yet said whether he will run for Senate next year instead of seeking re-election, finished ahead of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) in a trial Senate heat, within the margin of error against ex-Rep. and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume (D) and just behind Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D), according to the poll, which was released in Monday’s Baltimore Sun.

The poll of 1,000 likely voters, conducted by Potomac Survey Research April 11-13, had a 3.2 percent margin of error.

In the poll, Steele led Van Hollen 41 percent to 37 percent with 22 percent of the survey respondents undecided; Mfume led Steele 43 percent to 41 percent with 15 percent undecided; Cardin led Steele 41 percent to 37 percent with 21 percent undecided.

“I think that Steele needs to seize the opportunity,” said Maryland GOP consultant Carol Hirschburg. “This is a golden opportunity for him, and he cannot let this go by.”

In a hypothetical Democratic primary, Mfume led the field with 32 percent, followed by Cardin with 26 percent and Van Hollen with 16 percent. The smaller Democratic sampling had a 4.5 percent error margin, though the newspaper did not say how many Democrats were queried.

So far, only Mfume has formally entered the race. Van Hollen has created an exploratory committee, while Cardin is expected to get in shortly. Other Democrats, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D), are also still publicly contemplating the election.
— Josh Kurtz

Internet Exec Says He’ll Challenge Hatch in 2006

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has attracted a Democratic challenger, but it is not Rep. Jim Matheson, whose potential candidacy was the subject of many political rumors.

Pete Ashdown, who runs the Internet firm XMission, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he would run. Ashdown founded the local Internet service provider in 1993.

Matheson recently said that he would not challenge the five-term Senator.
— N.D.

Just Call Me Keith, Minister/Candidate Says

Don’t call him reverend. Or bishop.

The nascent campaign of GOP Senate candidate Keith Butler told the Detroit Free Press that the founder of a huge church in suburban Detroit prefers not to be identified by either of his religious titles.

He is a reverend and bishop but “just call him Keith Butler,” a campaign spokesman told the paper. “He’s not running for minister; he’s running for the Senate.”

Last week, Butler, a former Detroit City councilman, became the first Republican to officially enter the competition to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year.
— N.D.

Liberal Group: Congress Fails the Middle Class

Ponder this with a huge mound of salt, considering the source: The Drum Major Institute, a liberal New York think tank, says that the Republican Congress is failing the middle class. The institute was, until recently, headed by Fernando Ferrer, the leading Democratic candidate for mayor of New York.

In a report released last week analyzing key Congressional votes in 2004, the institute failed all but half a dozen Republicans for their positions on issues of importance to the middle class. On the Democratic side, only ex-Sen. Zell Miller (Ga.) was given a failing grade.

The think tank used votes on job creation programs, minimum wage laws, health care funding, education grants and consumer protection to measure Members’ commitment to the middle class.

Those Republicans who escaped with Cs or Ds: Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.).
— J.K.

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